It’s pretty safe to say that the 2023 awards season didn’t really begin until Good Burger 2 (now streaming on Paramount+) BROUGHT the PRESTIGE. The film is the scorchingly anticipated sequel to 1997’s immortal Good Burger, in which stars Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell spun their sketch-comedy bit from Nickelodeon series All That into cinema gold. Perhaps I’m overstating the movie’s influence; perhaps not, at least among its cult following, which one assumes was either in elementary school when it hit the cable-rerun/home-video circuit, or high as hell. Before we get into it, some quick inventory: Sinbad and Dan Schneider are AWOL, while Lil Rel Howery and Jillian Bell join the GBCU; the GB formula still includes celeb cameos; there’s markedly less ska-punk on the soundtrack; and the phrase “Demented Hills” probably doesn’t fly in 2023, so it’s never even mentioned. But one thing remains consistent: high-octane silliness is the fuel that keeps this grill sizzling.
GOOD BURGER 2: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: You will not be surprised to learn that Ed (Mitchell) is still working at Good Burger, still wearing the hat and the striped shirt and the nametag 24/7, still dreaming about talking cheeseburgers and condiments, still thick as a slab of sperm whale blubber. Elsewhere, Dexter (Thompson) is an entrepreneur, head of Dextreme Industries, whose latest endeavor quite literally goes up in flames, leaving him, ahem, dexperate. How dexperate? Dexperate enough to go back to work at Good Burger, which Ed, somehow, despite his struggle to be a coherent and functional member of society, now owns. Ed is also married with a slew of children with names like Pickles, No Mayo and Baby Bun Bun, and his house is stem-to-stern burger-themed. One also assumes everyone smells like old grease, but I cannot confirm that.
In marked contrast to Dex’s woes, Ed basks cluelessly in his success: A foodie TV show boosted his business, his burgermobile has been upgraded from an AMC Pacer to a vintage convertible and he has “more money than (he) could ever dream of,” so considering his intellectual capacity, he probably has about 212 bucks under his ground-beef-patty-shaped mattress. Everyone at Good Burger is happy: the weird twin-sister fry cooks, the ancient delivery lady, Dex’s niece who works there and the Character Cameo From The First Movie Who’s Been Stuck In The Freezer For Years.
So it goes without saying that something will threaten Good Burger, and no, it’s not earthquakes or aliens or a zombie apocalypse, but any of those probably would be preferable to the ol’ corporate-takeover plot: A sharky lawyer (Howery) from MegaCorp is offering a contract with “lots of zeros” on it in exchange for the burger brand, but he, and you, and I, and everyone on Planet Earth are fully aware that the biggest zero of them all is Ed. Dex’s dexperation hasn’t dwindled, so he wants in on that deal. It takes him about a millisecond to convince Ed to sell, and when they sit down with Sharky McSharksalot, Esq., nobody bothers to read the contract, because nobody ever said Dex wasn’t a moron, too. And in swoops malevolent MegaCorp CEO Katt Boswell (Bell) to give off some Evil Jennifer Coolidge Lite vibes, and make everyone’s life miserable as HECK.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Twenty-six years passed between Good Burgers; only 20 years separate the Dumb and Dumber films (and note, nobody in their right mind thinks When Harry Met Lloyd counts).
Performance Worth Watching: It’s kind of impressive how easily Mitchell picks up the persona after so long. He seems to be having fun as the movie’s primary source of enthusiasm.
Memorable Dialogue: “If you’re looking for Ed, he doesn’t play in the trash until after work.” – Dex
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: Good Burger 2 is three things: It’s nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. It’s another example of moldy IP resurrected for the streaming era. And it mostly maintains the stoopid spirit of the original. It seems to maintain it, anyway – its success is wholly contingent on one’s standing affection for the first movie, which is not in my personal pop-cultural hall of fame, because I was very firmly in the TOFTS (Too Old For This Shit) camp when Good Burger dropped in the late ’90s. As a Good Burger agnostic, I found it relentlessly dumb, but not annoying, for what it’s worth. As ever, comedy is subjective, IHIYWT (It Helps If You Were There) and your mileage may vary.
But I can report that this is a classic Bowling Plot where the pins are set up to be knocked over, and the question is whether it rolls a strike or a gutter ball or something in-between. I wouldn’t say it’s a solid spare; maybe it knocks over seven and finds an eighth wobbling but ultimately staying upright. Its visual palette is bright and cheery and colorful, and the comedy trafficks in the usual puerile kiddie crud: booger and fart jokes, a wheezy spoof of movie trailers, positively ancient one-liners (“Screwdriver? A screw can’t drive!”), a collection of misfit-stereotype Good Burger employees (weird twin sisters, a decrepit senior citizen, a squeaky-voiced teen), etc. And this being an attempted revitalization of 1990s Nickelodeon content, which was about 85 percent food fights, it’s inevitable that all characters will be showered with gloop.
Perhaps one could interpret the development where MegaCorp tries to replace Ed with a robot version of Ed as commentary on the soullessness of chain businesses compared to the personal attention one gets at the mom-and-pops. A Shop Local message for the holiday season, maybe, if you want to stretch a little. Then again, that “subtext” seems to be contradicted by the rampant product placement that puts logos for corporate junk food prominent in the frame, thus making the movie more affordable to produce. So what’s the message here? “Nobody’s perfect”? Sure, whatever, good enough – three shrugs that pretty much sum up Good Burger 2’s M.O.
Our Call: Good Burger fundamentalists will likely find things to enjoy and nitpick in the sequel, so if you’re among that particular niche, knock yourselves out and STREAM IT. I’d be surprised if anyone deems it a “classic” (in the absolute loosest sense of the term) like the first movie, though.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.